Jaws


Steven Spielberg's Jaws was released 40 years ago, back when I read books before they became movies -- Jaws, The Exorcist, The Godfather, among them. Peter Benchley wrote a bestseller about a stone-cold killer that  keeps moving and eating because if it stops it will die. Into his film, Spielberg, a television director turned to motion pictures, poured what would become staple ingredients for his movies -- threatened families, kids in peril, an amoral bureaucrat, a flawed hero who guts it out in the last reel, and, on occasion, some gore. Jaws has its share of blood but is amazingly restrained as compared to the descriptions in the book. And, of course, John Williams' ominous score crawls up and down the spine. It is not a perfect film -- though it was nominated for Best Picture. The townspeople are a tinge more cartoonish than they need to be, even for the Gerald Ford Years. And yet, the movie features three terrific performances  -- Roy Scheider as the frustrated, newly hired resort town police chief Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as cocky oceanographer Hooper and, especially, Robert Shaw as a modern day Ahab Quint, who Brody hires to deliver the man-eating Great White on a plate. The best part of the film, as one might expect, is the chase, which takes up more than half of its running time. Watching these three disparate individuals get fused by heat and danger into a semi-fuctioning unit is much of the joy in watching this picture. Recommended.

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